Little Steps℠ offers a structured series of expressive group activities through which children learn to identify and change the patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior they have learned in response to their family member’s chemical dependency.

In 1989, the YMCA pioneered a treatment model utilizing expressive art and play therapy, role playing, and other therapeutic techniques to address the special needs of children (ages 5-17) whose lives have been affected by a family member’s use of drugs or alcohol.

Children learn that they are not the cause of their family member’s substance use and that while they cannot control or cure it, we will help them to learn to cope with it. Our program provides education and coping skills.

Reasons for Referral

There are a variety of emotional, behavioral, school or family problems that may be cause for concern. You may want to consider referring a child to us if you observe any of the following signs:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Changes in usual behavior and mood
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Anger
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Academic failure
  • Depressed mood
  • Hyperactivity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Oppositionalism
  • Perfectionism
  • Physical complaints
  • Separation anxiety
  • Social withdrawal

Early intervention is crucial to preventing children from developing substance abuse problems of their own down the road.

Program Philosophy

Children experience their world on a feeling level, and express themselves through action. Words are necessary, but certainly not enough for recovery to take place. Their therapy must be supportive, experiential, active, and expressive.

Because dependency is the central and defining feature of childhood, they need love, limits, and the understanding commitment of at least one primary and supportive caregiver to their recovery.

“Now I know that the drugs cause the fighting and not me. And I also know that even though people take drugs, you can still love them.” - James, 7

It is our hope that through this program, the children will discover in themselves the moral courage to be angry, the wisdom to find purpose in their past, and the creative vision to build meaning in their lives which goes beyond themselves.

“With Little Steps, I can get better, but I don’t have to do it alone.” - Kristina, 10

Program Goals

Little Steps℠ helps children to:

  • Understand that chemical dependency is a disease;
  • Understand that children don’t cause their parents’ drug or alcohol abuse, and they can’t make them stop, but that parents/families can and do get better, if they get help;
  • Learn how to:
    ○ trust
    ○ accept appropriate limits
    ○ speak honestly
    ○ make decisions
    ○ be assertive
    ○ laugh and play
    ○ make friends
    ○ identify and express their feelings
    ○ believe in their own specialness and in a power greater than themselves

Program Options

Stepping Stones
Ages 9-11

Stepping Stones utilizes a mix of therapeutic games, art activities, and discussion to assist children in dealing with their increased awareness of addiction and its associated dysfunction.

Little Steps
Ages 5-8

Little Steps utilizes expressive art therapy to enable children to identify and express feelings such as anger, sadness, and fear in a constructive manner.

Prevention Counseling

Prevention Counseling offers one-on-one counseling to children and adolescents who are displaying high-risk behaviors. The goal is to explore ways to positively cope with stress and deal with anger and peer pressure.

Youth Anger Management
Ages 6-17

Anger Management is a 12-week program which seeks to reduce anger, aggression, and tantrums while improving coping skills. It is designed to combat unhealthy core beliefs, promote responsible behavior and enhance the quality of life of our youth and their caregivers. Groups are separated by age. There is a nominal weekly fee for this program.

See Open Intake Hours